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Analyses - February 26, 2013

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Evaluating the Quality of Digital Hospitality

Destinations the world over must adapt their practices to the changing behaviours of their clients with ever-evolving technological needs. A study done by TCI Research shows that traveller satisfaction with the quality of digital hospitality is at the level of “acceptable,” but just barely. Will destinations be ready to properly meet client expectations in 2013?

This analysis is based on the data gathered by the worldwide TRAVELSAT Competitive Index survey, conducted by the Belgian firm TCI Research, measuring the competitiveness of destinations based on the experiences of nearly 30,000 tourists from more than 30 countries. They were polled in 2011 and 2012 on 80 indexes (see complete list at http://tci-research.com/travelsat-list-indexes/). Of those, only the index concerning digital hospitality will be examined here. Survey respondents were asked to evaluate their impressions of the availability, accessibility, and quality of the content and services offered via various mobile devices.

On-site Internet hospitality

The concept of Internet hospitality at the destination (related reading: Internet de séjour : « Bonjour, que nous suggérez-vous aujourd’hui? ») is increasingly transforming the notion of offering hospitality to a client base that makes massive use of smart phones and e-tablets. Listed among the 13 trends of 2013 in the January Gueuleton touristique, organized by the Transat Chair in Tourism of UQAM’s ESG, in cooperation with Tourisme Montréal, on-site Internet hospitality creates numerous challenges for tourism offices and other organizations involved in providing hospitality to guests and tourists.

How do we evaluate the quality of digital hospitality around the world? Do digital services offered to visitors meet expectations? The TRAVELSAT survey finds that overall, the satisfaction index with the quality of digital hospitality stands at just barely over 100 – indicating that it is acceptable, but does not always exceed expectations (see the five index levels in Table 1).

Qualite_accueil_anglais_tableau1

Note: This rating is indicative only (the progress from one level to the next being gradual) and does not apply to criteria of satisfaction relating to prices, which by their very nature find less favour with clients.

Level of satisfaction according to various criteria

Generation Y travellers (ages 25 to 34) seem slightly more satisfied with digital hospitality than those of other age groups (see Graph 1). When travellers in general spend between 4 and 7 nights at their destination, their needs are clearly met more fully (130) than those who stay between 1 and 3 nights (93) and 8 nights or more (111).

Qualite_accueil_anglais_graphique1

Newlyweds on their honeymoon, shopping enthusiasts, and business travellers (MICE) express the highest level of satisfaction with digital hospitality (see Graph 2). Their experience even exceeds their expectations. At the other end of the spectrum, people whose stay is built around religious tourism often expressed the strongest dissatisfaction of all groups represented.

Qualite_accueil_anglais_graphique2

Survey respondents were especially satisfied with the digital hospitality in New Zealand, Australia, the United States and Canada (see Graph 3). These countries offer an experience that is more competitive than most European destinations. Travellers who visited Latin America mentioned, among other aspects, issues with consistency of quality, which explains the low satisfaction index.

Qualite_accueil_anglais_graphique3

Note: For clarification of destination composition, see Table 2.

Qualite_accueil_anglais_tableau2

Individuals from the BRIC countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – are those who most appreciated the digital hospitality they experienced during their trips (see Graph 4). We can surmise that technology devices are an effective way to overcome communication issues and that they can facilitate the initiation to a new destination. On the other hand, the expectations of Europeans were not completely met, which translates into less positive feedback.

Qualite_accueil_anglais_graphique4

In terms of satisfaction with digital hospitality relating to the principal activities practiced by visitors, we do not see a wide variation in the indexes (see Graph 5); the majority of travellers find it acceptable. We notice that satisfaction levels rise when it comes to the specific character of the segment under study (golf, theatre, sporting event, etc.); destinations could easily justify focusing their content on activities which motivate travellers to visit.

Qualite_accueil_anglais_graphique5

Influencers (or trend-setters) on the web, who are very active in social media, report a higher level of satisfaction than other client segments (see Graph 6). Better equipped and informed than the average, this group of individuals knows how to make the most of available applications once they’re at their destination.

Qualite_accueil_anglais_graphique6

When we see how enthusiastically the more seasoned travellers (influencers on the web) embrace technology, we can ask ourselves about the correlation between level of knowledge and interest and level of satisfaction with digital hospitality. Being accustomed to services offered on the web, many influencers will even choose certain applications and digital services before arriving at their destination, which allows them to make more use and to better appreciate their devices upon arrival.

Tourism organizations and travellers alike are in the process of adapting to new technologies. The learning curve and the use of online tools are not the same for everyone, which is why we find ourselves in a transition period where a balance must be found between the services offered digitally and those provided personally by the industry’s players.

Sources:

–Transat Chair in Tourism, UQAM ESG and Tourisme Montréal. Gueuleton touristique, « Les 13 tendances de l’industrie touristique pour 2013».

– TCI Research. TRAVELSAT Competitive Index, 2011-2012.

 

Comment – Olivier Henry-Biabaud

The study simply reminds us that the appeal of technology is one thing, but the relevance of content is another. We still have a good way to go before the two can converge. What good is it for smart phones to have a myriad of apps from all sorts of operators within easy reach if what you really need at a crucial time is not available? Some apps are intriguing; some enable you to scan the exterior façade of a hotel to know if rooms are available. But how many tourists look for accommodations after arriving at their destination? The digital age is profoundly changing the way tourists plan their trips and live the travel experience, but we are yet again reminded that the actual experience is the sum total of hundreds of tangible and intangible points of contact (material, commercial, human and digital) that are all occasions for a destination to score points with visitors.

In the future, the most competitive destinations will likely be those that manage to strike the seamless balance of human and digital hospitality, to enrich the experience of the visit without virtualizing it, and to offer applications that are consistent throughout the visitor’s stay. Infomediation is an enormous challenge for destination management organizations (DMOs), which must strive to guide their visitors through this “jungle” before and during the stay.

Olivier Henry-Biabaud – TCI Research
Olivier_Henry_BiabaudOlivier Henry-Biabaud founded TCI Research in 2010. With a Master’s degree in Marketing Strategy (Paris Dauphine University, Sciences-Po Paris), he has 20 years of experience in international market research with global companies (TNS, Ipsos) in senior operational and management positions based in various locations. A specialist in international travelers’ opinion, he has been in charge of large-scale research programs measuring traveler satisfaction and destination competitiveness for over 50 countries, regions, cities and international tourism organizations. He is a regular speaker in international forums about tourism competitiveness, a member of the UNTWO Panel of Tourism Experts and its Knowledge Network, and a board member of the TTRA – Tourism and Travel Research Association (Europe Chapter).Website: www.tci-research.com
 

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